There never seems to be enough hours in a day. Finding the time to get a solid workout in is challenging enough, without also completing a thorough stretching routine following every workout or sporting activity. Many just skip stretching to get on with their busy day.
However, stretching holds many benefits, including improved flexibility and range of motion, easing muscle tension, improved recovery time, and better athletic performance.
“If you are stiff, you are going to expend a lot of energy just working against tight muscles” (Cook, 109).
Stretching must be done correctly in order to gain all of its benefits.
In their book “Stretching to Win”, Ann and Chris Frederick note that a dedicated approach to effective stretching may “enhance each athlete’s performance, improve recovery after intense activity, and reduce the risk of injury.”
Here are some creative ways to incorporate stretching into your busy day!
If you have a desk job, incorporate some stretching into your work day. It's easy to perform a number of effective body stretches while remaining at your desk! One of my favorites is a great stretch for my tension heavy neck and shoulders.
- Reach down to the edges of your chair with both hands, arms at your side.
- Gently grip the sides of the chair while allowing your head to fall down toward your shoulder.
- Breathe into the stretch, and be sure to do both sides.
- While sitting, perform key shoulder, neck, and other back stretches to reduce tension.
Even done when working, these stretches will ease the discomfort associated with desk work. Incorporate some deep breathing exercises when performing these stretches for added relaxation.
- Many workplace ergonomic experts recommend taking “micro-breaks” on the hour, and you can accomplish a great deal of stretching on a floor mat.
- Alternate your chair based stretches with mat stretches. Try lying on your back, with your legs stretched straight up along the wall in front of you.
- Scootch forward until your buttocks touch the wall, with both legs straight up.
- Lay there, breathing deeply, and focus on your breath.
Doing this stretch mid-afternoon provides me enough energy to finish the day.
I take advantage of opportunities to stretch throughout my day.
- Standing in line at the supermarket, I stretch my back and legs while using the shopping cart as a support.
- I stretch my hamstrings during my reading, my calves whenever I am standing still, my chest and triceps while waiting in line at the bank.
- If you are about to relax and watch TV, get a mat and lay on the floor rather than the sofa and perform total body stretches while enjoying your program.
Sometimes, stretching is just not enough to ease muscle tension, soreness, and that tight, painful feeling we all experience, especially after a workout. A smooth or spiky massage ball may be just what you need. These incredibly effective massage tools fit in a bag or briefcase, and do not require you to undress or apply lotion or oils.
Roll a massage ball under the sole of your foot to reduce tension and improve your circulation while sitting at your desk. Hold a massage ball in your hand to roll over shoulders, neck, and upper back while reviewing documents or working by phone. Place one in the small of your back while sitting in your chair, and gently move back and forth for a low back massage at work!
Muscle roller sticks are another super addition to your recovery and relief gear. Easy to use, portable, and highly effective at easing tension, improving circulation, and releasing tightness and hot spots of pain and tenderness.
By having you work the ball and the roller, you can apply just the right amount of pressure to ease away any tension. Add stretching and self massage into your day, as much as possible, and improve your athletic performance, relieve aches and pains, and realize greater relaxation!
Cook, Gray. “Athletic Body in Balance: Optimal movement skills and conditioning for performance.” 2003. Human Kinetics.
Frederick, Ann and Chris. “Stretch to Win: Flexibility for improved speed, power, and agility” 2006. Human Kinetics.